Some great stuff reached my desk today, with a focus on the air balance in the Strait. First, an excellent review by Rick Fisher at the International Assessment and Strategy Center which offers both a historical rundown of Taiwan vs China in the air, and an evaluation of Taiwan's current situation. This is an extremely detailed review, with notes on technology and international relations. A taste for you grognards out there:
After many years of intense investment, the PLAAF has more, and very likely, better AWACS aircraft than Taiwan. While in 2000 the Clinton Administration succeeded in convincing Israel to halt its sale of Phalcon active phase array radar to China, for fitting on a Russian-made Beriev A-50 AWACS, four of these aircraft are now in the PLAAF. Asian military sources have stated that the radar signals from the KongJing-2000 (KJ-2000) AWACS are similar to that of the Phalcon. This turbofan- powered aircraft can also fly much higher than the turboprop-powered E-2T, meaning it can take advantage of its greater search range. The PLAAF also has about five less-expensive KJ-200 AWACS based on the turboprop-powered Xian Y-8 transport. This aircraft uses a linear active phased array radar similar in shape to the Swedish Ericsson Erieye. China's ability to develop two types of active phased array radar AWACS demonstrates a world-class level sophistication in this technology. Such AESA radar are much harder to jam than conventional radar, as they are theoretically able to focus very powerful electron beams that could damage vulnerable electronic circuitry.Also arriving was an unclassified DIA report on the current state of Taiwan's air force: not good, and declining. I've put the pages up as JPGs (top of the post) which you can download and blow up a little for clarity.
A Defense News article by local correspondent Wendell Minnick summarizes the DIA report, which he observes appears to favor the release of F-16s to Taiwan, and offers additional info. An excerpt:
Delivered to the U.S. Congress on Feb. 16, the report, DIA-02-1001-028, says that while Taiwan has nearly 400 combat aircraft in service, "far fewer of these are operationally capable."The sad fact is that even the F-16 replacements will not be a match for China's advanced fighters, and China will have more advanced fighters than Taiwan will have fighters, period.
The report is mandated by Congress under the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act.
Since 2006, Taiwan has had a standing request for 66 F-16C/D Block 50/52 fighters, but the United States has repeatedly rejected a letter of request for price and availability for the aircraft. The most critical problem is aging F-5E/F Tiger squadrons now used for training. The F-5s have "reached the end of their operational service life," the report says.
Taiwan claims it operates about 60 F-5s, but the report says "the number of operationally capable aircraft is likely much less, possibly in the low 30s."
The 126 Indigenous Defense Fighters (IDF) have "limited combat range and payload capacity restricts [the aircraft's] effectiveness in air-to-air combat," according to the report, which acknowledges the Air Force is making some efforts to modernize a "portion" of its IDF fleet.
The Air Force's 56 Mirage 2000-5 fighters suffer from high maintenance costs and lack required spare parts. They are "technologically advanced, but they require frequent, expensive maintenance that adversely affects their operational readiness rate." There are also "chronic difficulties with the aircraft's turbine fan blades" that have "severely hampered the fighters' readiness rates."
The Air Force is considering mothballing the fighters and "focusing resources on a more sustainable aircraft," according to the report.
Taiwan's 146 F-16A/B Block 20 fighters are in need of upgrades that improve avionics, survivability and combat effectiveness, the DIA report says, but "the extent of the upgrades, and timing and quantity of affected aircraft is currently unknown. The F-16A/B can be armed with the AIM-120C [AMRAAM] active-radar air-to-air missile." Taiwan has 120 AIM-120C-5 and 218 AIM-120C-7 missiles in its F-16 inventory.
"Despite the operational capability of Taiwan's fighter force, these aircraft cannot be used effectively in conflict without adequate airfield protection, especially runways," the report says. "Taiwan's ability to protect its aircraft and airfields from missile attacks and rapidly repair damaged runways and taxiways are central issues to consider when examining Taiwan's air defense capability."
Though Taiwan's request for new F-16C/Ds is not mentioned in the DIA report, the conclusion of the assessment points to the need for new fighter aircraft.
One U.S. defense industry source cautioned that the option of selling F-16s to Taiwan has a de facto deadline.
"If Taiwan is to have some credible air deterrent, then they need new, replacement aircraft. There is really no alternative to the F-16C/D. At some point this year, the F-16 supply chain will begin to shut down as there are no new orders and the U.S. and its allies switch to the F-35," he said.
"Once this happens it is cost-prohibitive to restart the line. This industrial time constraint will force the political decision either to sell the aircraft to Taiwan or not. If no, for all intents and purposes, the island will have no real means of defending its airspace."
Additional link: Many of my friends have asked me for the link on Yahoo auction where we get bulk indian food spices in Taiwan. Enjoy!
[Taiwan] Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!